Rappie Pie: A Love Story
When my parents did the Rappie Cha-Cha
it went something like:
peel, chop, rinse, rinse, rinse,
feed, press, crank, crank, crank;
steps learned not in Arthur Murray’s dance studio,
but in their own parents’ kitchens,
around the corner from each other in East Boston,
where hundreds of French Canadian families settled
after the Great Acadian Deportation.
Side by side, they boldly embraced
the arduous task of peeling twenty
pounds of potatoes, my mother feeding
chunks into the antique hand-cranked grater,
my father forcing the spuds into the cylinder
with a worn wooden block, rhythmically
rotating the cast iron crank,
careful to catch the wet mixture as it oozed
out of the metal contraption, into the waiting bowl.
An hour later, grating complete,
they took a short intermission,
long enough for my mother to knead
my father’s cramped, numbing digits,
in preparation for the next part,
where she scoops the runny potato mixture
into cheesecloth, and my father uses
his impressive strength to squeeze out
the unwanted foamy orange starch.
Their combined performance complete,
now it was time for my mother’s solo.
She stirred, stirred, rap-cha-cha
chicken stock into the potato mixture,
buttered the pan, and alternated layers of potato
and boiled chicken, rap-cha-cha
topping the pie with generous chunks
of salt pork (for taste), and placed it in the oven, rap-cha-cha,
first at high heat to crisp the crust, then at lowered heat.
No shortcuts or quick steps to speed this labor of love.
My parents moved in perfect sync
creating their traditional Acadian dish,
knowing new guests at their table
may politely reject a giant chicken/potato pancake
with its unusual grey inside and crispy outside,
because at first glance it resembled wallpaper paste.
True to her roots, my mother proudly served it,
as her mother had for many years,
covered with sweet, dark molasses,
unperturbed by a less than stellar review,
knowing someday, like me, her guests may come to love it;
her simple explanation, spoken with a patient smile,
Rappie pie is an acquired taste.